Writing with a twist

All of us like surprises. When you add a little wit to what you write, it can surprise and delight the reader. This, in turn, puts the reader in a better frame of mind to read and absorb your message.

Some newspapers do this regularly. For example, this is a heading from The Economic Times.

Heading with a pun on Mallya funding footbal club

The report is about uncertainty regarding sponsorship of a football club. All readers of this newspaper would be aware of Mr. Vijay Mallya’s problems with his airline, which make him “shaky”. “Feet” and “kick” strengthen the football metaphor.

Take another heading, this one from Pune Mirror.

Those who are familiar with cricketing terms would immediately understand the pun on “stump”. What is implied is the police are stumped by the finding and they have no clue how the bone landed there. Some readers felt that this was a little insensitive. After all, it involved a fellow human being, who deserved respect, dead or alive.

Does it help to write with a twist in the office? It would definitely get attention. But your target readers must immediately grasp the context. They should be able to spot and appreciate the play on words. If there is even a whiff of controversy, the debate may overshadow the substance of your message.

In the head office of the bank, where I used to work once, it was routine to send reminder letters to branches. The subject line would always read: REMINDER No. 5. Only the number of the reminder would change. The recipients would hardly bother to respond to such frequent reminders, regardless of the number.

One new officer sent a reminder that definitely got attention. This is what he wrote.

Bank reminder

Within days there was some very officious uproar about the breach of “protocol” and violation of the bank’s “style of correspondence.” I do not remember if that reminder managed to get the report it was seeking. But, for a very long time, even a little note from that officer got immediate attention from everyone. His boss would plead with him to use “normal English”.

Yes, go ahead and give it a twist, if it gives you a kick. But make sure “they” will get it. Else, you will end up with snubbed toe.

This post also appears at http://www.wrisources.com/blog.html

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